By Ambrose Okehi
While the fear of whether or not the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Transport (FMOT) will cancel or inaugurate the long awaited second Governing Board of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) who were elected for some months now without hearing from the authorities.
Some maritime stakeholders and freight forwarding practitioners are already expressing displeasures over the delayed inauguration of the duly elected council board members into the CRFFN Governing Board while other are suggesting that the election be cancelled whereas some optimists are emphatically maintaining that the board must surely be inaugurated no matter how long it delayed.
An elderly man and a veteran maritime journalist also told this reporter that it is bad and does not make any sense to try to abort a pregnancy of a child that had already been born.
The veteran journalist puts it in this form:
”You cannot abort an already born baby.”
By this he is saying it will be impossible to refuse to recognise or inaugurate a duly elected members of the Council, elected through an election that was monitored by the same government.
But recently, one of the newly elected and yet-to-be inaugurated members of governing board of CRFFN, Chief Ifeanyi Ekemezie in an exclusive interview Ambrose Okehi told Maritimenewsroom online that he is optimistic that now that the political party primaries are over and political activities are a bit subsided before the main bigger one next year that the council may be inaugurated anytime from now.
According to Ekemezie ”they will surely inaugurate our board any moment from now. I am sure it may had been the various political party primaries that had been going on. But now that they are through with their party primaries, our inauguration can come up anytime from now.”
He equally confided on Maritimenewsroom that nobody should be troubled anymore over the delayed inauguration of the board is as the election would not be cancelled for any reason, concluding that now they are looking forwarding to seeing the Federal Ministry of Transport (FMOT) inaugurating the council board any moment from now.
Chief Ekemezie further stated that ”we are hopeful that any moment from now the government will inaugurate our board. It just because of the electioneering campaigns, particularly the party primaries. But now that the party primaries are now over. So,we are looking forwarding to seeing the government inaugurating the soonest. It is the inability of the government to inaugurate and the failure of the council to commence its normal operations that have made the sector look as if nothing is really working.
But we are looking to seeing the governing Council being formally inaugurated. Yes, we are anxiously waiting on the Council to start operating fully.”
However, there is a man who sleeps, dreams, eats and drinks maritime and professionalism of the freight forwarding practice in Nigeria and he is Dr. Boniface Okechukwu Aniebonam, the founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) and also the National Chairman of a registered political party, the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP).
It is Dr Aniebonam whom his group initiated the idea of professionalizing the freight forwarding practice in Nigeria and was also the brain behind the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) by drafting the Bill that metamorphosed to the Act No. I6 of 2007.
Ever since the passage bill to a law many have been working to kill and destroy whatever that relates CRFFN while NAGAFF on the other hand has been doing everything humanly possible as well working assiduously to see that the council which is an Act of the National Assembly survives and lives up to its mandate of regulating the freight forwarding operations in the industry.
Going by this and also giving details of how he formed the two groups in the first place, in order to add value to the system and peoples lives, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam said:
“Both NAGAFF and NNPP are all formed to add value to people. They are on liberation struggles on how to add value and make Nigeria a better place for all of us,” Dr. Aniebonam said.
The NAGAFF founder also said that the idea behind the CRFFN was what informed his decision to approach the National Assembly with CRFFN bill just to create what is today known as the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarders when he muted the idea some years back.
The NAGAFF chieftain noted also that immediately the idea was releases, other associations starting fighting him through their vigorous and dangerous petitions some through diabolic means, doing everything possible just to stop him. And because he has really made up his mind and strategically planned well and really networked, their petition became inferior to the idea he had packaged and forwarded to the NASS.
He emphatically said that some members of the NASS, who even were maritime experts did all within them too to kill the Bill at its infant stage but at end the bill passed all the readings and became an Act of the NASS, a law that will be regulating the activities of the practitioners in the sub-sector of the country for the betterment of freight forwarders themselves and for the good of the nation generally.
Aniebonam stated that in order to rubbish the idea he had put on and presented to the NASS, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) in particular came with an alternative to what he had presented.
”ANLCA came up with a bill for the regulation of Customs Licensed Agents and all kinds of things were flying around then. Eventually, the CRFFN Bill was signed and passed into law as an Act, ” Dr. Aniebonam told Maritime Insider, a maritime sector newspaper, in an interview recently.
He said, critics are not resting on making sure that they scuttle all he is doing to liberate the sector.
On that, he said that same devilish people are not resting on their devilish plans and strategies to stop him and CRFFN which has come to liberate the freight forwarders on the country. He said that he is not relenting.
The founder recalled that apart from the fact that the first election into the council board was comprehensively rigged in favour of some group, the first governing council board members also could not function well as expected of it because it derailed on the way.
”Because ANLCA and Co were not interested in the council, they were unprepared and went about printing cards with Coat of Arms, driving cars with Federal Government’s plate numbers and completely derailed from the mandate of the council.”
On how everything about CRFFN started, the founder noted that it all started when NAGAFF attempted to become a member of FIATA some years ago.
”Let me tell you know that the CRFFN became a necessity when NAGAFF applied to be a registered member of FIATA Nigeria. And Nigeria as a big commercial nerve centre in the world have the attention of FIATA but it was not possible for FIATA to register association from the same country as a separate entities, so they advised us to come together under one body and apply.
The then president of FIATA was in Lagos, we met at Eko Hotel, Victoria Island after which he also met with the then minister of transportation, late chief Ojo Maduekwe. And while on his way back to Zurich he called and narrated all that he discussed with the minister (late Maduekwe). All of which led to the emergence of CRFFN,”
For this single reason and many other leading roles NAGAFF has been playing to ensure that the freight forwarding subsector of the maritime industry is liberated through professionalism, the group is saying that CRFFN is its baby and that they will do everything to see that it stands to its footing no matter the effort of their detractors.
Dr. Aniebonam while advising the younger freight forwarders recently on how to take up responsibility of seeing that the council works, also regretted that it is ANLCA that brought them to the sorry state they are currently on the freight forwarding (CRFFN) operations in Nigeria.
”We have a sister association who claims to have been in existence for more than 45 years. And with due respect, it is ANLCA that brought us where we are today. With the council, we seem not have been where we supposed to be in terms of respect and the inputs we are making to the nation’s economy.
So those of you here (the young freight forwarders) take responsibility. The Council for the regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria provides for all of you the opportunity to operate in the Customs ports. If we don’t get hold CRFFN, I don’t think we have added any value to what we are doing in the industry for the past I5 years.”
During his birthday celebration recently, the founder, who said, he is retiring from active association politics and activities by next year, as well noted that he came back after his initial attempt to retire when he realised that he had not gotten a good successor and someone who would take CRFFN to its promised land.
”If you listened to the National president of NAGAFF, Chief Uche Increase, he made a passing statement about my exiting. I exited to give room to new idea. That brought the late Usman Sanusi and a lot of them but along the line, it appeared to me as if I have not actually groomed somebody who would wear this big shoe, therefore, to me, I felt unfulfilled and later know that I still have a job to do. And that was what made me to make a U-turn and the U-turn is about the CRFFN. The Council is the most important instrument you people as freight forwarders need and therefore you must defend it. Today there are two legislative instruments governing the clearance of goods out of the Customs ports, that the customs law and the CRFFN Act. And therefore you must defend it.”
He told the young practitioners that the CRFFN Act provides all of you them opportunities to operate as freight forwarders in the customs ports and have anything they want.
He equally commended the young practitioners for the roles they played during the Council election, advsing them that they should know that the compound where NAGAFF is presently located is not their property, that the young practitioners should by next year start doing something over that.
”Iam thanking all of you is because of the sacrifice you people made during the last Council election. I gave the directive that before you become a member of NAGAFF, you must be a member of CRFFN. And you went out of your ways to pay all the monies that saw NAGAFF registering over 200 members.”
Dousing the alleged fears of whether or not the Federal Government will ever inaugurate the newly elected CRFFN board members, Dr. Aniebonam corroborated Chief Ekemezie by assuring them that fear of whether the inauguration will finally take place or not is baseless because that allegation is neither here or there and that there is no way they (government) would not inaugurate the council board.
”The issue of inaugurating you (elected board members) is neither here nor there. If they cancel the election if we come back we are going to win them. But cancelling an election is not as easy as that because we have the judiciary section and NAGAFF is proactive. Beside that whoever that is holding a baby’s thing and was raising his hand higher, whenever he is tired and brings his hand down the original owner (the baby) will collect back his thing,” Dr. Aniebonam concluded.
Giving his final admonition to young forwarders, Chief Ekemezie, who was full of assurances and optimism, encouraged his colleagues elected along side himself into the board that they should exercise patience and that government must surely inaugurate the council just as the political activities is a bit subsiding before the bigger one of next year comes up
On what his advice would be for the new entrants into the profession, Chief Ekemezie admonished them never to relent rather to be up and doing, not giving up in waiting because the future holds a lot for them and their profession. That the only way to tap from future opportunities is only to be patient and wait for their own right time and make proper use of such greatest opportunities and chances in their operations. Because time and chance happen to them all.
Sounding biblical and bringing it clearer to the upcoming forwarders (youngsters), Chief Ekemezie quoted Ecclesiastes chapter nine verse eleven which says, ”I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle for the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favour to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.”
The CRFFN elected board member by the above pleaded with them that they should know that time and chance can play for or against one on any day anytime that as an upcoming practitioners, that they should ensure that when such opportunities come their way either to clear some consignments for importer or whoever for whatever purpose, that they should make adequate use of such golden opportunities for their own good and their businesses.
He also said that honesty, integrity and commitment in dealing with their clients particularly their importers should be their watchwords.
”They should as well know that without honesty, trustworthiness, reliability, fairness and commitment to your clients, they will not trust you to clear for them and by that they will not last in this sector,” chief Ekemezie finally pleaded with them.